Business etiquette and grooming

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Business etiquette and grooming

Learning objectives:

1 To introduce students to business etiquette and grooming. 2 To familiarize students with dress and grooming. 3 To explain the importance and the use of courtesy. 4 To familiarize students with table manners observed at business lunches and dinners 5 To introduce e-mail etiquette, telephone manners and overall conduct at the place of work. 6. To explain the use of time ,space and things in the world of work

Introduction:How many times have we fumbled , using our forks and knives and chopsticks? How many times have we extended our hand for a hand shake which has not been reciprocated on time leaving both individuals embarrassed? How long have we fussed over what to wear to a semi –formal official party? Well, the answer to all these questions lies in what is going to unfold. Today, Professional Looks , Corporate Manners ,these terms are commonly used. Thanks to globalization , work places have become a microcosm of the world. We find ourselves often confused as to how to behave, so that no cross - cultural barriers are created while communicating in a multi- cultural set up. In order, to overcome these problems we could encounter at the world of work , we need to familiarize ourselves with acceptable professional behavior and groom ourselves in accordance.

Dress and grooming:

The first impression of any individual is created by external appearance. Even for that matter products are thoughtfully packed for instant appeal. It is imperative that we take utmost care of our appearance ,of which our clothes and grooming are an integral part One should be appropriately dressed for any occasion. Care should be taken that one is neither over or under dressed. The minimum requirement besides everything is clothes should be ironed. Women should take care that clothes are not revealing. Low cut blouses and short skirt lengths should be strictly avoided. Bright, gaudy colours should be avoided and pastels should be preferred. Clothes with large floral prints or large checks are a strict no. Accessories should be appropriately matched .Handbags have to be neatly organized, in order to avoid spilling things in others presence, also they shouldn’t be too huge, torn or tacky looking. Makeup shouldn’t be too loud and colours have to suit one’s skin colour and dress As regards jewellery ,it has to be minimal, dangling earrings should be avoided and the number of finger rings should be one per hand( for both men and women). As regards foot wear, uncomfortable pencil heels should be avoided . Men should also take care to wear matching shirts with trousers. Pastels should be preferred over bright colours. Belts should match shoes and if cuff links are used they shouldn’t be cheap looking ,with the polish worn off. Shoes should be polished and should be in shape .Clothes shouldn’t be stained and seams shouldn’t be ripped (especially collars and hand cuffs). Personal hygiene should be maintained. Nails should be clipped. Garish/gaudy nail enamel should be banned (especially dark reds and blues).Oral hygiene should be observed and mouth fresheners should be kept handy. A neat hair style should be maintained and hair should be neatly combed and appropriately set. At a formal party it is a better idea to find out the dress code in advance and if not intimated , one should find out from the host about the dress code. Above all one should remember that it is better to be dressed simply ,instead of being over or under dressed. One should remember it always helps to look your best, because people like to have good looking people around them .It makes them feel good looking too. Finally one should evolve one’s own signature style.


How would you dress for a formal party?

___________ prints and__________ colours should be avoided at the workplace.

Courtesy :

It is said that ,’’Handsome is what handsome does”. It is important to be physically appealing but it is of no use unless it is complemented with courteous behavior. One shouldn’t reserve best behavior for special occasions .A uniform set of social codes should be followed, that shouldn’t discriminate between individuals that one considers important or otherwise. As Erastus Wiman says, ’’Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It is the cheapest of the pleasures ,costs nothing and conveys much .It pleases him who gives and him who receives and thus, like mercy , it is twice blessed.” One must recognize other people’s work, appreciate efforts .It is said that nine positive comments counter a single negative remark . Appreciation is always welcome from all quarters by everyone .Especially , freshers crave for appreciation from superiors, so superiors shouldn’t be cutting in their remarks about juniors . Have realistic expectations from others and oneself ,so that there is no confusion. It’s best to be transparent and honest in dealings in order to be credible. Conversations should be sprinkled with golden words like Thank you, Please, Excuse me. However, one’s response to the question ‘Do I think of others more than myself ?’ should put things in perspective. After all , being courteous is nothing but being honest ,fair, putting others before oneself and being accountable.


Suppose you are in a situation where the printer has run out of cartridge, only two print outs can be possibly taken ,your junior has an important document to print and you share the same printer, whereas, you have a day on hand to submit your document, you being senior would you use your senior position?

Conversations and small talk at official gatherings:

In order to be liked, one should be a skilled conversationalist. No body is a born speaker, one has to make conscious efforts to be good at it. This can be developed by reading and being generally aware of things .Positive people are liked by all ,so be positive and do not indulge in gossips. At a social gathering it helps to show interest in others ,of course one should avoid controversial and personal questions .Sense of humour is vital to being liked by all. One should be careful that laughs and giggles shouldn’t be at somebody else’s expense. If people around are known and you notice that someone is being left out of conversation, then try to include them in your conversation and put them at ease. However, do not go out of your way in doing so,as it is your host’s responsibility to keep people engaged ,nonetheless, you can contribute in your own small way. It’s possible that we tend to forget people’s names, in such a case ,try to make the situation light by cracking jokes about how forgetful you have become generally, and be honest about having forgotten people’s names. You could also start as,” It’s been one of those days. Please tell me your name again.” Do not cling on to people at social gathering nor should you allow others to do the same to you. In order to gracefully exit, suggest the food table or rope in someone to make your exit.


1. At an official gathering you come across people gossiping and laughing wrongly at a very close colleague, your reaction would be to: A Laugh at the absent colleague . B Clarify the real situation. C Do not react, just listen and keep quiet.

2. You happen to know only the host at an official get- together ,in such a case : A You cling to the host. B Just be relegated to the corner of the hall . C Be proactive, interact with others on your own initiative.

At the dinner table/Power lunches and dinners:

Today, business is not limited to closed rooms, it is all encompassing, the concept of power brunches , lunches and dinners is an accepted way of doing business.Time is thus utilized to the fullest. It is said that ,’ Dinner lubricates business.’ Multi- national organizations conduct intense interview sessions for senior and responsible positions that span across the entire day ,do observe table manners of candidates and their overall conduct over lunch/dinner which is part of the interview ,which contributes a great deal to the final decision making process . The way an individual eats ,conducts himself/herself does reveal a lot about one’s upbringing and social background. It is aptly said, ”Tell me what you eat and how you eat ,and I will tell you what you are”. Thus a lot of care should be taken about how one conducts oneself at such occasions. Firstly, personal addictions should be kept at bay. Smoking is banned at public places,and if one wishes to indulge in smoking ,it should be done in areas allotted to do so. Drinks should be consumed within limits, at least at official gatherings .Follow the lead of the most senior at the table who will set the tone. Allow a more senior person to be the first person to order alcohol. Cell phones should be put on a vibrating mode. Try to confine your conversations to business related talks. Wait for all to start eating,unless most senior announces it is time to eat it is not correct to start. Napkin should be placed on lap .The dinner should begin with the outer most utensils. Take bite-sized pieces of finger foods ,and mind you,no double dipping .For soups ,fill spoon by moving it away from you. Use edge of the bowl to wipe off drips from the spoon .When finished with the soup, place spoon on saucer or at four o clock position. Avoid seasoning food quickly,it shows that you are overall a disorganised and impulsive individual.Remember that servers serve from left and remove from right. Always cut one piece of food at one time before cutting another piece of food. Put elbows on the table only in between courses .Clasp hands in front to look attentive and interested. At buffet dining , plates shouldn’t be overflowing with food. Care should be taken of not mixing foods and serving utensils. While serving oneself one should take care not to sneeze or cough ,and control the urge to taste selections-however delicious the food looks. If Chinese cuisine is on the menu, use chopsticks only if confident ,the twirling and swirling sessions should be done at home and knives should be avoided completely to manouver .Personal chopsticks should not be jammed into a common dish.

Using knife and forks: Forks should be held in the left hand and the knife should be held in the right hand. The knife should be used to cut the food,after which the fork and knife, should be laid down and the fork should be shifted from the left hand to the right and the food should be speared to the mouth. The fork is also used to scoop up the remnants, corn kernels peas etc on the plate. In Europe the fork is held in the left hand and the knife is used to push food on to it and the fork carries it to the mouth .Corn kernels ,peas are squashed into the fork for delivery to the mouth .A fork should never be used to stab a dish.Also never cut up all food at once. For finger foods , watch your hosts, seniors to determine ,whether forks will be used for finger foods.

Once eating is done ,place fork and knife in the middle of your plate ,side by side. The fork tines up or down ,the knife to its right ,sharp blade pointed inwards to wards the fork .If a fork ,knife or spoon is missing always ask your host to replace it. If fork or food drops to the floor, ignore, and quietly ask the server to provide for another one.

Eating and passing food:

While eating it is impolite to cut up all food at once .Bread should be broken into two pieces, and butter should be spread only before putting it in your mouth. If someone takes your bread plate, don’t make an issue out of it or point it out, you could use your dinner plate. It is impolite to take food from someone else’s plate. A small portion can be offered on the bread and butter plate. The bread plate is placed to the left and the drink to the right. Also try to avoid answering with your mouth full. Try to redirect a question aimed at you elsewhere. If the person is insistent, just smile with your eyes ,point to your mouth and chew slowly. Don’t force the food down and don’t even try to say a word with your mouth full. If you notice unclean utensils or something in food, discreetly ask the server for new utensils /plate. As regards passing food ,it should be passed counter clock wise .However, if someone to your left asks for an item, pass it .Pass salt and pepper together ,even if one is asked for. As far as possible stick with known food ,do not experiment .Also ,if you are allergic to certain food ( eggs or mayonnaise),confirm about the ingredients with the server or the host.

Excusing oneself:

Excuse yourself only for phone calls or if some gristle is stuck between your teeth. To blow your nose or for obvious reasons.

After the food:

Once you are finished eating place utensils at 4 o clock and 10 o clock position. Take care of not placing used utensils on the table cloth. Do not ask for a doggy bag at a business lunch/dinner .Fold your napkin in such a manner that the soiled area is hidden and place it to the left of your plate. Also if you soil someone’s clothes by spilling food/drink be ready to pay for professional dry cleaning .Keep drink in left hand to keep right hand free for hand shakes. Be prepared to pay in case of misunderstanding of host roles .In case you have to cancel , call personally and apologize in time don’t ever keep your host waiting .Send a thank you note or an SMS to that effect. Finally ,remember it is a business lunch /dinner ,so food should take a back seat to mingling and establishing new contacts.


1. You find hair in your food, you A Show the strand of hair to everyone present. B Call for the server and yell at him. C Quietly ask for food to be replaced.

2. You accidentally spill drink on your colleagues expensive sari, you A Apologize profusely and try to clean the stain with a napkin. B Apologize and act as if nothing has really gone wrong. C Apologize and offer to pay for professional laundering.


Handshakes are symbolic of friendship ,goodwill and they go a long way in creating warmth. However, handshakes could create awkward situations rendering us uncomfortable. Especially,when we extend our hand to shake while the other person doesn’t respond instantly ,which embarrasses both individuals .Thus it’s better to familiarize ourselves with the basics of handshakes. Hands should be shook when people meet for the first time. People are welcomed into organizations with a hand shake .Handshakes are also common when people meet out of organizations or when we say a bye to someone. While shaking hands, the grip should be web to web, it should not be limp or bone crushing. Hands should be kept parallel to the floor-palms down is domineering whereas palms up is submissive. Hands should be shook regardless of gender. While shaking hands,one has to look the other person in the eye, smile and this should be followed with a greeting. Both men and women should stand for handshaking and all introductions.


1.You meet a long lost colleague at a dinner party, in the midst of the dinner, you react: A Without bothering to wipe your hands offer to shake hands. B Quickly pick a napkin wipe your hands and then shake hands. C Catch up with your friend after you are through with dinner.

Telephone manners:

Cell phones are an inseparable part of our lives today. Seemingly ,landlines phones are steadily on the path to becoming redundant yet due to added facilities like the answering machine fax attachment ,even they are important. There are certain rules that need to be kept in mind that make telephone conversations comfortable. Phones are used for several purposes, conferences can be conducted over phones , voice mails (where calls can be recorded and answered at the receiver’s convenience) and several others. There are certain basic rules that are to be observed while speaking over the phone. Firstly, answer the call by the third or fourth ring. Identify yourself instantly especially if you are speaking for the first time introduce your name as well as the name of your company if required and then proceed. Speak slowly ,clearly and with courtesy don’t rush with your greeting allow the listener to remember who you are and why you are calling. Speak with a smile. Always keep a pen and paper handy to note important point. Minimize background noise. If you have called, plan your conversation and do not meander. Have information at hand in case of unexpected queries. During conference calls ,all parties should introduce themselves before business starts. End positively and acknowledge the caller. Return voicemails in a timely manner if possible on the same day. Cell phones should be set on a vibrate mode. Don’t fidget with your cell phone ,it shows lack of confidence .Remember your cell phone is not part of the meeting ,if there is a call excuse yourself to take the call. Never talk on the phone while with a client and if you have a call the person who called must know who is privy to the conversation.


1 When dining with a prospective client and your cell phone rings, you: A Ignore the call. B Apologize and turn the phone on silent mode. The person you are with takes priority. C Take the call, keep it brief and inform the caller that you are dining with a business associate.

E-mail etiquette:

E-mails are the most commonly used form of communication. There are certain rules of drafting e-mails that we need to be familiar with. Use correct grammar, punctuation marks and avoid run-on lines. We need to be careful of the language aspect i.e with spellings ,proof reading and missing words . Don’t make your e-mail colourful by using many coloursDo not use fancy font styles. Avoid using uniform upper or lower case. Stick to sentence case. Remain diplomatic and be positive throughout the conversation. Plan your e-mail in advance ,do not run into many paragraphs as no body reads them. People tend to look for pertinent matter and skip frills. Avoid using multiple ????? or !!!!!!!!!! as it reflects juvenile behavior and desperation. If you receive an e-mail from an unknown source that is to be handled by someone don’t sit over it, forward it with a note explaining why you are sending it. Hit the send button after a lot of contemplation.

Elevator manners:

If you happen to get in first onto the elevator, press the button and stand back. Allow people to get off the elevator before getting on to it. Avoid discussing meetings that have just occurred, unless you are away from the place where the meeting has occurred.

Everyday etiquette:

Never address senior executives by their first names unless you are asked to do so i.e without adding the prefix sir or madam. If you are on a first name basis with the president of the company and if you happen to pass him/her when he/she is in the company of clients from outside it is better to add the prefix Mr.Shah or Hello Sir or Madam. It better to use the prefix Ms instead of Miss or Mrs as Ms does not reveal the marital status of women ,so it is efficient in business .It saves time and is a step towards equality. When in your cabin/cubicle in your office ,use inside voices for communicating. Let the talk be professional at the work place. If you happen to be the first person to enter the room , open the door for all. Stand if an important person , client or an elder enters the room. Do not cut jokes at others expense. Do not mix personal and professional life.

Use of Time ,Space and Things: Stick to your time, schedules and deadlines. Respect your time and other’s time , to avoid any misunderstanding across cultures

Respect other’ s ‘Personal Space’, people like their Space, even in personal as also reflected in professional relations . For example. Latin Americans or Arabs embrace frequently , and prefer talking nose-to-nose. On the other hand British males prefer to converse, even intimately, at a respectable distance. The amount of office space occupied reflects the rank of the person occupying it. As an individual climbs the corporate ladder, he/she grows from a cubicle enclosed by room dividers to private offices.

Thus communication can be facilitated or can break down as a consequence of sensitivity (or its absence ) to the proper use of time and space.

Possession of things speak about one’s status, wealth, education and taste.One should be extremely careful about the choice of accessories, hand bags, watches, footwear etc . In a professional set up one should use things that suit one’s status. It is observed that people of high status try to downplay the importance of brands and the opposite is observed in people of lower status. Thus in order to communicate effectively and to create a positive impression in the professional world,one should try to imbibe the do’s and don’ts mentioned above.


1.You receive an e-mail with all capital letters what does it tell you about the person and what does the message suggest?

2.You find an elderly woman saddled with a lot of luggage trying to enter the elevator, but you are on your way to your workplace , you

A Ignore as helping would crease your clothes B Help her out ,without bothering about your clothes,rush to your workplace. C Help her out and take a look at yourself, if clothes are soiled then change and rush to your workplace.

3.You have to meet a prospective client at 10.30 am, as usual you leave your residence at 10.30 am, and due to the traffic reach 45 minutes late for the meeting, what kind of an impression is created about you in the client’s mind? Is it right to reach late?

4.You have got a good bargain of hand bags at a local hand bag store, however, the bags are not of superior quality, and you buy them with an intention of carrying all your things to your workplace, are you right in doing so? Why?

5.You carry a hand bag that is stuffed with things ,you reach your workplace and you delve into your bag to fish out a ball point pen and all your things spill out ,leading to an embarrassing situation, what does this reveal about you as an individual?